Three youngsters and a middle-aged man emerge every Sunday evening from The Central Park in New Delhi’s Connaught Place, warm up in front of Starbucks and as the darkness covers the swathes of white, take out their instruments to treat the young and old to some street music. They keep moving in the inner circle so that the crowd doesn’t swell into a law and order problem.
It is the lack of platforms for instrumental music that has brought the Wegabonds, as they love to call themselves, together. Manas, who is passionate about guitar and light classical music, puts forth the concerns of the group. “Auditoriums are out of bounds for us. All of us tried to explore possibilities to perform in restaurants and clubs in different parts of the city but most of them like to play piped music these days. At one place, the manager said that he has just sacked the singers because they were proving too expensive. A deejay who can mix Honey Singh and Hard Kaur is a cheaper and popular option. In such a scenario, instrumental music doesn’t stand a chance. But we were not ready to believe that there is no audience for us.”
The middle-aged English language teacher Munindra, who plays harmonica on Rajiv Chowk Metro station, proved to be the catalyst. “One day, on my way back home, I saw him playing the instrument at the station and was surprised by the response from the passengers. It gave me the confidence,” says Anjan who plays guitar and flute and teaches music. They were joined by Mohit, an engineering student who is the bassist in the group. “The media often generalise that youngsters like only one kind of music. It is not true. I love the music of the ’60s, Anjan is fond of Blues and Manas is into ghazals. And we are all in our 20s. We picked Connaught Place because we felt here, we will get listeners who will respond to our talent.”
Manas, a travel agent by profession, has a way of gauging the group’s popularity. “Last week, a police constable turned up to stop our performance. He said our music could make the listeners vulnerable to pick-pocketing. Perhaps, he was thinking that we are making money out of it and was looking for his cut. We stood firm and he had to backtrack. He might return tonight.”
Meanwhile, Munindra breathes air into his instrument and fills the air with “Gore Gore O Banke Chhore” and it is not long before a young couple starts swaying and twirling to the tunes. An oldie remarks the song is from Samadhi, a film made in 1950. “See, it still works!” Another one tells his son that playing the harmonica is good exercise for the lungs.
As one parts, they offer a ticket of Rs.300 for their first performance in a club in Model Town. Model Town?
“We were also surprised but then realised there is more to West Delhi than just Honey Singh,” says Manas.